Hardware fun vs. DAW productivity


Yea, I do it too. Just little dedicated “modular workstations”.

DFAM+M32 + fx
OT + guitar +fx
(El) Piano + Lyra8
SP404 + Vinyl + bass guitar
Tanzbär + all individual outs to mixer + fx
Logic + Mircrophone + fx
Ableton Live 10 suite + midi controller (or 2)

That way it’s easy to operate and there is room for pro fun.
And always record (multi-track for raw stems). When it’s a hardware electro+acoustic session I don’t record mostly because I like the - in the moment - thing to stay there. Enjoy it and move on.
I am as good as the last session


You can use hardware and Ableton together loads of us jam out hit record in Ableton and then just edit stuff in a daw that’s what daws are for. I think allot of you didn’t grow up with hardware or missed the era when you just used pro tools or cubase to record everything software instruments didn’t exist really you needed hardware. You now have the best of both worlds shit I sample stuff from Ableton or reason into hardware back and forth why “just use hardware” ??? Does it make you a better producer? Doubt it.


even worse.
vast majority of the noobs spend time mostly downloading plugins & switching presets :sunglasses:


I haven’t read the rest of the thread so my notes might be redundant.

I too have sketches on my boxes everywhere. I’ve gotten better recently about giving them all dedicated banks…but only recently…due to necessity as it became a nightmare after awhile.

Ill work on boxes to a point where I want to wrap it up. Most of the work then has been done because fun. Then I’ll multitrack into Reaper (i use ableton too but only for production). Then add subtract edit mix and stamp. I don’t spend nearly as much time here…and my mixes show that :yum:

I mean even well tooled studios still track into DAWs.


When I began my journey into electronic music production, I started out using Propellerheads Reason. Seemed like such a great all in on solution and sample / preset packs were readily available to download. The problem was too many choices. I had got to a point where the program itself would sometimes freeze upon loading because it had to scan so many sample banks and add-ons. Too many choices had stiffled my creativity and not being able to commit, gave me an open door into endless tweaks and adjustments to sounds/ arrangements. That’s how you end up with “track9edit5Octobermixfinal v9.wav” No thanks!

Only when I moved to hardware after a 2 year hiatus was I able to get my creative spark back and be productive again. I only use a daw for multi track recording, cutting, arranging, fx, mixing, and mastering. I may occasionally import a sample in as well. Hardware saved me.


I can relate! Hardware got me back into making electronic music for sure, which isn’t to say I won’t be doing stuff completely in a DAW 5 years from now. I kinda doubt it, but you never know :slight_smile:


For me growing up playing in hardcore and grind core bands doing drums I’ve always needed something hands on to play. I think the best the best advice in this thread is. Build a go to setup. Keep everything else in a “Library”. Try and master your setup. Even if its just per track. Then just swap out another part. You don’t need everything you own in one track. If you want to go for it. But i find it much easier to focus when its just a few select instruments.

It will force you to learn your equipment well , get comfortable with it and also force you to be productive. Then when you have your inital ideas sorted from hardware , go back into your DAW, finish up the composition , put it through an aux FX channel for HW FX , mix master. And bang your done. Still want to play it live , no problem. Sort out your stems and make a live set with Octatrack , bring some choice FX , Maybe one of your recorded instruments for playing live and before you know it , you’ll be done! Or at least thats how i am going to approach it this year._


Get a MPC Live the song mode forces you to finish tracks.


you are not the only one. you share the same lack of creativity with me and i’m same as lazy than you are hehe. actually i could do anything with my stuff, but most of the time it just happens in my mind. i just think about it what i could do, but i don’t do it. strangely enough. it think i’m just a lazy mofo!

btw i have a DFAM too, which was my latest- and probably the best purchase of the last years. such a great little drum synth. at least i can sync it now to Ableton over the Mother 32, which has a midi input that converts Midi to CV.


Same here, ableton is an ocean too wide for me personally, I end up creating the weirdest sounds, not finishing any track. With hardware I have finished the most tracks of my life. And the most beautiful, even though cpu’s don’t stand a chance against a good desktop ableton pc. For me it’s all about twisting knobs with actual knobs. Human feel all the time. Filters are totally live recorded which is awesome!


This is a good discussion and I think many of us here relate to it.
I never liked working in the box to be honest, I always wanted to get that right sound BEFORE it goes down the daw.
Working in a daw makes you think it’s totally legit stacking up a comp, eq, rev on each of your 4,000 channels.
When you move to hardware you’re lucky if you have one compressor for the whole lot.
But we nauts, we love limitations, don’t we?
If any of us really wanted to finish a track we would never buy an elektron box to start with.:wink:
We knew that getting an elektron box meant hours of exploration and a learning curve hoping to find some inspiration from that elektron sound and workflow.
Finishing a track? Well isn’t that really up to you when YOU decide when your track is finished?
and that’s a hard thing to know because it has to do more with your style and musical language then your virtual or non-virtual instruments.
I’m writing like I know something… haha … no, I don’t know anything really.
And I think I’m slightly addicted to that feeling. The feeling of not knowing … Which instruments to use, hardware fun or daw productivity, when is that horrible track finished, what to do with it once it’s done, how do you play it live and where, will I live to see OB working, or how to get a good sounding kick.
The answers to each one of these questions I guess are complicated because it depends on so many parameters.
But there’s one thing I know for sure:
song mode.
I never use it.
I mean, seriously, arrangements of a track are far more complex then 4 times B3 followed by 12 times B7, is it not?
So yeah, for me it’s also a combination of both:
Getting the sound you want from your hardware instruments and other audio-processing units and then if you want to make a track with those sounds with an arrangement and all you’d probably need a a daw to do that.
(Or the OT if you’ve mastered it :nerd_face:)
Anyway, These are my thoughts for the end of 2018


I’d also like to strongly recommend the concept of limitations. I’ve finished more music and had more fun over the last 3 or 4 years by setting strict limits for each project (album, ep, whatever). Typically no more than 4 or 5 synths (soft or hard) and of those only a couple will be complex. Current project is Analog Rytm, Uhe Zebra, Ableton Wavetable, Arturia Pro5 and Future Sounds Systems Brunswick.


I take a lesson from my time spent in software development - if you don’t define your scope early on and work hard to avoid feature creep you might as well not even start the project because it’s never going to get done

edit to add - some scope limitations we can consider for music:

  1. equipment/instruments - music is tech driven, so this is a big decision - difficult but not impossible to make rock music without guitars for example
  2. genre/style - saying you’re going to make a techno track is a pretty big limitation!
  3. compositional techniques - pick a chord progression, serialism, etc.
  4. purpose - is it background music, is it a pop song for the radio? etc.
  5. recording techniques/approaches (multitrack, live, etc.)
  6. final delivery medium will dictate many decisions
  7. the list goes on


The DT and DN combo has been a million times more productive than Ableton for me. Not that I’ve finished more songs really, but i can make interesting stuff way quicker. I still need Ableton to really finish things though.


+1 Had the Push MK1 and MK2, both not used, despite initial excitement. I was also hoping it would encourage me to use for making music, as opposed to making tracks, but that somehow did not happen.


#2 is my biggest hurdle.

I’ll sit down and go, Ok, deep house. Then it turns into a weird house techno progressive wtf thing in the end.

It’s almost like I’m not defining the genre fully in my head. Then without that limit, I add whatever sounds cool…but that takes the music in a weird direction.

My SoundCloud is full of Frankensteined tracks.

My challenge for the weekend is to stay on topic. :+1:t4:


Haha, you know, it kind of isn’t :stuck_out_tongue: Depending on the music you make, I suppose. For a while there I was straight up copying songs onto my MnM+MD (My Girls by Animal Collective, Let’s Dance by David Bowie) and the majority of songs fall into verse, chorus type structure anyway–maybe a pre-chorus, a little break and a bridge. Songs may not necessarily be all four bar loops (for instance a verse could be 12 bars, 16, 24, what have you), but then you just put different bits of four bars on different patterns, then set, say, A01-A04 to repeat two times in song mode. Bam–two verses. Then with muting (whether you do it manually or by telling song mode to do it for you) you’ve got different arrangements from verse to verse, chorus to chorus, etc.

This is all to say: Try out song mode. As a songwriting nerd (you wanna hear me gush about some Beatles song structure for hours?!) I found myself quite pleased with song mode and how intuitive it is.

But I digress…That being said, I haven’t actually made a song of my own from start to finish on any of the boxes–which is fine, that’s not really why I got the boxes in the first place. It seems to me maybe this thread is a little too black and white? If you like tweaking and sound designing on your Elektron boxes, then you can just start up Ableton, get some MIDI clock going and record your sounds in there. Why not have the best of both worlds? If you finish music better in the DAW, but you love the workflow/tweakability/sound design of Elektron, then do both!


pre-determining genre/style is actually something I rarely use as a limitation - at least during the earlier stages of a production (for better or worse :sweat_smile:)

as much as limits are important, to always work within the same limitations may become stifling and simply not interesting. It’s good to change around the limitations to focus and channel inspiration in different directions and give your creativity room to breathe; to be what it wants to be at the time - which may or may not be what you think you originally wanted

to have no limits is bad, to have too many limits or the wrong limitations for your goals (unconscious or conscious) will also be extraordinarily counterproductive. I think what’s of primary importance is to be mindful of the choices you’re making and why you’re making them


I totally agree with this. I’ve lightly considered starting a little group near me for producers to share their tracks and get feedback–one because I used to have that in community college and kind of miss it, two because it would, like you said, force me to make something and work on it so I don’t look like a slouch.

When I was in a band we would put together shows for Halloween and we decided to write all new music for it. The first year we decided we’d do black/doom metal (we were a psychedelic electronic band) and it was just pure fun. There was no overthinking the songs or anything. We went in there, wrote a few scary/metal sounding songs and practiced them for the show. It was honestly the most productive we ever were as a band, if only for the reasons you gave. We decided what we had to do, we had limited time to do it, and we had already set a date for the show so it had to happen. We later did something similar with a DJ set and it was always good fun.

(i guess the video still exists if anyone is interested)


Good points!

But this is a good reminder for me to focus though. If my goal was to make a minimal techno track, I probably shouldn’t bust out a big progressive arp preset on the Virus just because I like the way it sounds for a second and then try to smash it into an otherwise perfectly solid track.

Once, I used a reference track to guide one of my tracks. When I was done, I was like, “that’s it!? That’s all there is to this track that was released on a big label”

It was comforting, and unnerving at the same time. I think I’m trying to hard